(Arguments For the Practice Considered 1)
Why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions? (Song 1:7)
Question.—Can there be any harm in hearing a good sermon anywhere it is to be had?
Answer.—Yes. Without the divine blessing, any discourse, no matter how good of itself, will provide no spiritual benefit, Rom. 1:17. Good preaching is not the same as good speaking; the latter terminates with eloquence whereas the former involves ministerial function, Acts 20:27. It is the declaration of the power (which is according to the nature) of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, 1 Thess. 1:5; 2:4. As such, it behooves us to receive it, not for the sake of the eloquence, but for the sake of the truth, 1 Thess. 2:13. Many speak words consonant with the truth even preaching “good sermons” whilst remaining wolves in sheep’s clothing, Matt. 7:22. Our duty stands not merely in word but in deed; we must avoid bidding such God-speed, 2 John 10, 11.
Supposing the preacher himself is wholly unobjectionable, with respect to doctrine and practice, yet he is chargeable with the evils of the community of which he is a member, Num. 16:26, 27; Jer. 51:6. Furthermore, we fail in our duty to both the preacher and his congregation by concealing the sin which required the initial division, Jer. 50:2. If we were to ask what harm comes from hearing a minister amongst the flocks of the companions from whom we are required to separate due to backsliding from Christ, the answer is manifest, Gal. 5:7-9. These men occupy the church courts which strengthen the hands of those who remain incorrigible in their sin, Isa. 30:1, 2.
This is not to be accounted a disowning of all ministry but a discountenancing of many in their present administrations until the offenses against the present truth be removed, 2 Thess. 3:14, 15; Jas. 5:19, 20.
Additionally, hearing the preaching of a sermon, or attending the teaching of truth, is an act of worship, if rightly improved, Jer. 7:2. Now, personal presence always implies consent, Ps. 26:5; therefore, it declares an approbation of their principles, 1 Cor. 5:9-11. Thus, that man is blessed that does not “present himself or come on the scene” (עָמָ֑ד) of the ungodly, Ps. 1:1.
Question.—Does the prohibition of occasional hearing mean that we count all wrong but ourselves?
Answer.—Honesty compels us to admit that this is the consequence of having formed positions doctrinally and practically as enjoined by Christ; indifference in matters of religion is no virtue, Rev. 3:16. It is required that every man be “fully persuaded” that he might believe and practice everything with conscientious approval, Rom. 14:5. Certainty in matters of religion is the basis of all genuine assurance of faith, 1 John 3:19-21.
Great men are not always wise, nor are good men always right, Gal. 2:11. To countenance persons in their error is not to reclaim them but rather to encourage them in their erroneous or evil ways, Song 1:7. Separation does not insinuate that those separated from are in a state of condemnation so as not to be saved, 1 Cor. 5:5. Position or claim to reverence cannot change the fact that we are to testify against and withdraw from those walking disorderly, Gal. 1:8; 2 Thess. 3:6. There are two kinds of withdrawing: 1.) from the society of heathens and publicans whom we judge enemies of Christ, Ps. 139:21, 22. 2.) From disorderly churches, not as heathens, but as brethren with whom we cannot keep church fellowship on account of their backslidings and apostasies, Matt. 18:15. Yet, in this latter case the case remains that a church may so degenerate as to become a synagogue of Satan, Rev. 2:9.
Question.—Does opposition to occasional hearing indicate bigotry or a lack of charity contrary to the command to love everyone especially those of the household of faith?
Answer.—No. We are not called to an indiscriminate charity which fails to distinguish between right and wrong or between good and evil, 1 Cor. 13:6. True charity is a fulfilling of the law not a diminishing of it, Rom. 13:10.
The wish that many have for many or all distinctions in matters of religion to be kept out of view arises from low ideas of Christianity and an implicit disdain for the importance of divine truth, Prov. 1:7; Mal. 1:6-8. Yet, if we have genuine regard for our neighbor’s spiritual well-being, we are commanded to not suffer him to remain in sin; it is an indication of our hatred if we do, Lev. 19:17, 18.
We live in an age of false charity wherein truth and error are allowed to co-exist peacefully, contrary to Scripture, Eph. 5:6; Eccl. 10:5. The practice of the early church was very different; it enjoined a separation from the corrupt ecclesiastical society and worship of the Jews and Gentiles alike, Acts 2:40; 2 Cor. 6:17.
Zeal for the truth ought not to be accounted bigotry, as though there is no difference between wisdom and foolishness, Eccl. 2:15, 16. Zeal for, and stedfast adherence to, the truth exposes one to the contempt of the ungodly, Ps. 69:8, 9. Liberality with the truth is not to be taken but rather a strict and careful observance is to be maintained, Prov. 23:23; Deut. 15:5; Matt. 28:20.